Alabama Department of Corrections Ends Ban of Prisoners With HIV From Work Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, ACLU, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org
Nikki Cox, ACLU of Alabama, (334) 265-2754, ext. 205; ncaclual@bellsouth.net

Alabama Department of Corrections Ends Ban of Prisoners With HIV From Work Release

Decision Comes After Decades of ACLU Advocacy

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - After more than two decades of intense advocacy by the American Civil
Liberties Union, Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) officials
this week ended a longstanding ban of prisoners with HIV from
participating in the state's work release program. The ACLU and other
advocates have long argued that the ban was an arbitrary and
discriminatory denial to participation in a program essential for
aiding prisoners' successful reintegration into society.

"This is a day that is long overdue
and we are thrilled that it has finally arrived," said Margaret Winter,
Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. "There simply
has been no justifiable basis to deny participation in this program to
a class of people simply because of their HIV status, and ADOC
Commissioner Richard F. Allen deserves credit for taking a stand for
justice and equality."

Eligible prisoners at the Limestone
Correctional Facility in Harvest, Alabama and the Tutwiler Prison for
Women in Wetumpka, Alabama, which house segregated units for prisoners
with HIV, now await transfer to work release centers. According to ADOC
officials, all eligible prisoners with HIV have been approved to
participate in the work release program and will be transferred to work
release facilities as beds become available.

"One of the prisoners told us that
when she recently received notice that she had been approved for work
release she wanted to weep," said Olivia Turner, Executive Director of
the ACLU of Alabama. "There is no way to overstate the humiliation
these prisoners have suffered for so long, from being ostracized,
isolated and denied participation in a program that has been available
to everyone else."

Work release programs, perhaps more
than any other correctional program, increase the odds for successful
re-entry into the community by allowing prisoners to hold paying jobs
during the day, gain sorely needed job skills and experience, set aside
savings for rent and child support, begin paying off court fees and
even find permanent jobs.

The ACLU's efforts to gain access to
work release for prisoners living with HIV dates back to 1987, when the
ACLU filed a federal class-action lawsuit charging that banning
prisoners with HIV from all prison programs, including work release,
violated the Rehabilitation Act and the later-enacted Americans with
Disabilities Act by arbitrarily excluding people with HIV for no other
reason than their HIV status. The decision by ADOC officials to open
the work release program to prisoners with HIV leaves South Carolina as
the only remaining state in the nation that continues to ban prisoners
with HIV from work release.

Other forms of discrimination
against HIV-positive prisoners in Alabama continue to persist, however.
Prisoners with HIV continue to be excluded from faith-based honor
dorms, prison dining halls, residential substance abuse and re-entry
programs and work crews. Prisoners with HIV are also given limited
access to sports fields, recreational opportunities and most prison
jobs.

"We're pleased that ADOC has agreed
to end this illegal and unjust discrimination," said Rose Saxe, staff
attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project. "But unfortunately there is still
much more work to be done in Alabama and across the country."

Additional information about the ACLU's work to end discrimination of prisoners with HIV in Alabama is available online at: www.aclu.org/hiv/discrim/tutwilerprison.html 

Additional information about the ACLU of Alabama is available online at: www.aclualabama.org

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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